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Robb Flynn: Machine Head are making “The Blackening 2”

Robb Flynn
(Image credit: Press)

It’s been a turbulent few years for Machine Head. 2018’s divisive Catharsis album alienated a chunk of their fanbase and led to the departure of drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Phil Demmell. It took a tour celebrating 25 years of Burn My Eyes to get the good-will flowing again. With that debut’s groove metal blast still ringing in their ears, Robb Flynn and a reconstituted Machine Head line-up re-entered the studio to make what the frontman is calling their heaviest album in years.

Metal Hammer line break

You’re recording this album at Sharkbite Studios, where you made Through The Ashes Of Empires and The Blackening. Can we expect something musically in line with those albums?

Robb Flynn (vocals/guitars): “It’s similar to those records in that we’re moving forward into something fresh and new but it’s got that classic Machine Head vibe. We have a lot to deliver and expectations are very high, so I’m lucky to have great people surrounding me. Jared [MacEachern, bassist] really stepped up and wrote some great riffs and great vocals. Vogg [guitarist Wacław Kiełtyka] contributed a few ideas and brought some really great songs.”

What are you moving forward into?

“It’s fucking heavy, probably the heaviest we’ve been in a few albums. I’ve been playing so much guitar recently; I do Electric Happy Hours every Friday and sometimes you play a song you haven’t played in 10, 20 years, or go through a whole album from top to bottom. When we toured Burn My Eyes, it took me back to where I was writing that music. I don’t think I can ever be in that place again lyrically, but riff-wise, I think that all spilled into this album.”

Phil Demmel called Catharsis a “Robb Flynn solo project”…

“I don’t know what he’s talking about. Everybody’s always contributed to all the records. I write, like, 80% of every record, but I love being in a band and I welcome everyone’s contributions.”

Catharsis wasn’t as heavy as other Machine Head albums. Was that in the back of your mind while making the new one?

“No, I don’t think I ever have any record in the back of my mind. I’m super-proud of Catharsis, man. There are some really great songs on there; I can think of five songs off the top of my head that are full-blown Machine Head fucking classics. They’ll probably forever be in our live set. Were there songs that people didn’t like? Sure, but there are songs on most of my favourite bands’ records that I don’t like. There are songs on every record of mine that I don’t like, even The Blackening. Slanderous sucks!”

In January you spoke about the album potentially having a massive opener with a long intro. Will the rest of the album follow in that vein?

“Yes, it does. I’m really stoked for people to hear that opener!”

Any other moments on the album that you can’t wait for the fans to hear?

“There are moments of just savage violence. The first few songs are a fucking murderers’ row of music and riffs. We’ve had a gothy, sad side on songs like Descend The Shades Of Night and Darkness Within, and I think we’ve got some of our most melancholy parts on this record. It’s going to be the type of thing that really hits people emotionally. It’s a rollercoaster.”

Sounds like we’re in for something really big, loud and progressive, then,

“Yeah! [Former Roadrunner/current Nuclear Blast A&R man] Monte Conner called it ‘The Blackening 2’. I don’t know if I want to put that concept into people’s heads, but those are pretty big words. He’s been my A&R guy for 28 years and to hear him this excited all these years later is a good feeling.” 

Machine Head’s 10th album is expected this summer via Nuclear Blast

Louder’s resident Cult Of Luna obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.